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Sarah - Waterloo, Ontario

I have never come face to face with a lynx or other large wildlife. However, this spring I found myself at the short end of a stick with a red-winged blackbird family. I am a farm girl transplanted to the city. I live in a fairly new subdivision that still has a few “undeveloped” spots. I was delighted when I found once such “wild” spot about a five minute walk from where I live, out behind a new subdivision. Part of the old woven fence from the farm field is still there, hidden away in the greenery. There’s a creek, wild apples, thorn bushes, and other large wild vegetation. It felt like I had come home and I spent quite a bit of time there in this wilderness haven, especially at the edge of the pond.

This pond is part of a city drainage system. It is between the houses and the old fence row. Several pairs of mallard ducks raised their families on the pond this spring. There is also at least one family of red-winged blackbirds. I have also seen swallows and cardinals in the area. One day while I was sitting in the shade of one of the young trees planted at the edge of the pond I watched dragon flies chasing each other—a mating dance?

This one lovely sunny day when I came down to the pond Mr. Red-winged Blackbird came to perch on a young tree and scolded me. I moved to another tree and he came and perched on it and continued his scolding. I didn’t know what his problem was or where I should go to please him. Finally he flew across the pond and perched on the peak of a roof. He let out a cheerful ok-a-LEEE!.

He reminded me very much of the killdeers on the farm where I grew up. It was as if he were trying to lure me away from the pond. This told me his nest must be close by. I was more interested in seeing the nest than in leaving. I quickly scanned the area and decided it was futile for me with my very low vision to find something as highly treasured--and well-hidden--as a bird’s nest.

He returned to perch near me and scold me. It was not very pleasant and I soon left. Later in the day I returned. There was a SWOOSH of an adult bird and something black about half its size. Both disappeared into the scanty top of a bush about two feet taller than me. The male red-winged blackbird came after me in all seriousness. The female came out of the bush and circled directly above my head. She was far enough up, I knew it was only a warning but I also knew that she was prepared to do battle. The male was only slightly off the side and I knew that he, too, was prepared to do battle.

I was wearing a straw hat for protection from the sun. Normally it feels like a fairly substantive piece of head-gear. Suddenly it felt like only so many tufts of straw in the wind. I had no desire to feel the talons of a bird, even as small as a red-winged blackbird, hooking into it. I grew up with poultry. I also know what it feels like having a sparrow in my hands, or some other bird. Small and harmless as these creatures may appear when singing on a fence or hydro wire, they have amazing strength in their wings. And those tiny claws and beaks--they are sharp as needles and very effective.

Besides, I had seen Mr. Red-winged Blackbird earlier in the season chase off a crow many times its own size. I read somewhere many years ago that a hummingbird can chase off an eagle by attacking its eyes. I decided it would be in my own best interests to just leave the area until Mom and Dad feel more comfortable with Junior on the wing. I’ve been back many times since but I feel a different level of respect for the authority of the wild birds than I used to. They are not only pretty to see and melodious to hear, they are a power to be reckoned with.

Waterloo, Ontario